Let's review 2012 so far:
1. The Steelers, after failing to defeat the Baltimore Ravens this year, go into the playoffs as a Wild Card only to get embarrassed by the Tim Tebow and the pathetic Broncos.
2. The Pirates come out of the gate to start off a promising season at 4-7, and are already in last place in the National League Central.
3. The Penguins go into the Stanley Cup Playoffs favored to win the whole thing. They end up losing the first three games to the hated Flyers. And to make matters worse, they act like a bunch of thugs in Game 3, causing their fan base to bury their heads in the sand in shame.
It's Number 3 that I want to discuss. I am not going to review the details of what happened. That's been beaten to death in a hundred articles and blogs over the past three days.
I have been a fan of the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins all my life. And I can state for a fact, that no hit that James Harrison or Hines Ward ever put on anyone has ever embarrassed me. That the twenty years of Pirate incompetence, as painful as it is, has never embarrassed me. But the actions of Sidney Crosby and Co. on Sunday afternoon have made me want to box up my Penguins gear and hang my head in shame.
Who was that team on Sunday? Where did they come from? I'll tell you where. They came from a lack of leadership and a ton of immaturity.
Here is part of an interview with Sidney Crosby after Game 3. It concerns Crosby pushing away Jakub Voracek's glove, as Voracek tried to pick it up.
“I don’t like any guy on their team. His glove was near me, he went to pick it up and I pushed it,” Crosby said. “Because why, I’m sorry?” the reporter said. “I don’t like him,” Crosby said. “Why don’t you like him?” Crosby was asked. ”Because I don’t like him. I don’t like any guy on their team. So ...,” Crosby said.
Really Sid? You don't like any guy on their team? Could you be a any more immature? Sid, you sound as if you were a spoiled 9yr old brat who just lost a Little League game. Take this point, I am sure that Hines Ward hates the Baltimore Ravens. But I doubt he hates everyone on the team. The reason being is that he is both mature and a professional, and you were neither on Sunday. You are not tough, you are not a fighter. I know you play hockey. But you are a skill player, a finesse player, not a thug. And you were acting like a thug. Actually, in hockey, thug would be a compliment. So let's go with punk. I actually hope Mario Lemieux called you up to his office upon your return to Pittsburgh and gave you a good spanking. I think it's what you need. Because you need to wake up, as does the rest of this team. Your actions on Sunday remind me of a famous quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower: "You don't lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership."
Leadership has to come from within you. It has to be by example. It has to show integrity and character. It can't come from bile and hate. You have to rise above those feelings to display true leadership. For some reason on Sunday, you forgot that important lesson. Look, I respect the fact that you took off your gloves and went at it with Claude Giroux. That's playoff hockey. We'd rather you not fight. But hey, it's hockey. However, the rest of your behavior during Game 3 was inexcusable. I said two years ago that Alexander Ovechkin needed to shape up if he was ever to be considered on the same level as Gretzky and Lemieux, and he has. Now the same goes for you. Bottom line, quit acting like a spoiled punk brat and start once again being the leader on the ice we know you can be. To quote the great Tom Landry "Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control." You were not in control.
Sid, you have the seeds of greatness in you, and this is no way to sow them. Leadership has to be established from the top down. And you are the top, Sid the Kid. The Penguins have dug themselves into a huge hole. And only through strong leadership on the ice can they dig themselves back out. With the talent on this team, you guys can do it. Lead by example out there. You want to hurt the Flyers, put the Biscuit in the Basket!! And keep them from doing the same.
We all have confidence in you guys. With strong offensive play, and some defensive help for Fleury, you guys can do it! Let's lift this veil of shame. Go back to being the team we saw all year! Go back to Penguin hockey!! Beat these guys 4 straight and move on to the next round!!
Wow. I think this is the first time I ever requested that someone perform a miracle.